Earlier this month I was fortunate to be able to spend nine days in a hermitage on the edge of some woods. I went for many reasons: rest; renewal; reconnecting (with God, nature, and my soul); deep inward listening; discernment; and preparation for upcoming teaching and ministry. My retreat was not very structured, but nonetheless was blessed with all of these kinds of gifts.
Day by day, as I let go of plans, expectations, and demands on myself, I felt tension and stress falling away. I began to be more present in each moment, savoring sights, sounds, feelings, textures, tastes, and awareness itself. In spite of cold weather, I surprised myself by how much time I spent walking in the woods, exploring unfamiliar terrain, becoming acquainted with particular trees, boulders, ridges, and the sparkling creek. I carried on my usual spiritual practices and added spontaneous times of prayer.
For decades I have felt called to the ongoing work, in myself, of understanding and living on the radical edge of the Quaker call to spiritual transformation. In the first days at the hermitage, I had been puzzled about why I had brought copies of an 18th century Quaker document by Job Scott, “Essays on Salvation by Christ.” Only in the deeply quiet middle days of my retreat did I remember that I have long felt drawn to wrestle with and understand Scott’s statement about the full transformation to which we all are called.
Job Scott was a highly respected Quaker traveling minister from New England. On a trip to Europe in 1793, during his long passage by ship, he wrote a draft of an essay that he had been attempting to write for many years. Then, in Ireland, he contracted smallpox and died. In a letter written on his deathbed, he asked Friends to edit the essay and asserted his belief that there has never “been any other possible way of salvation but that of a real conception and birth of the divinity in man.” In the Preface to the essay, he clarifies, “[I]n all ages, it has been a real birth of God in the soul, a substantial union of the human and divine nature; the son of God, and the son of man, which is the true Immanuel state, God and man in an ever blessed oneness and harmonious agreement….”
Official Quaker committees examined the manuscript and concluded that while it was true to Scriptures and to Quaker doctrine, publication at that time would be controversial, because of theological divisions among Friends at that time that would be heightened by it. Other Friends, however, copied Scott’s essay by hand because they found it such a valuable guide to the spiritual life. It was finally published thirty-five years after Scott’s death, without official committee sanction. I have hesitated to write a similarly clear statement. My book Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey, speaks of these same truths, connected to Scripture and to early Quaker testimony, but the language, though contemporary, is not as bold as Scott’s.
Our desperate times call for the clearest statement of truth possible. I hope to do this as simply and clearly as I can in writing, joining others who have done the same. I also attempted to put this into words in an online webinar on The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey. (January 30, 2022). A link to the recording is below.
I’m so grateful to those who have prayed for me and held me in the Light for faithfulness, simplicity, and clarity of expression.
The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey © 2022 Marcelle Martin
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The link to the recording of the The Radical Quaker Spiritual Journey webinar held January 30th, 2022 is available below.
The first Quakers discovered that a radical spiritual transformation resulted from learning to pay attention to the inward guidance of God. Their collective experience of surrendering together to this direct relationship enabled great spiritual power to work through them, which set in motion many liberating changes in society.
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Our Life is Love: The Quaker Spiritual Journey describes the transformational spiritual journey of the first Quakers, who were inwardly guided by God to work and witness for radical changes in their society. Focusing on ten elements of the spiritual journey, this book is a guide to a Spirit-filled life, designed to be a resource for both individuals and groups to explore their spiritual experiences. It describes the journey of faithfulness that leads people to actively engage in God’s work of making this world a better place for all. Our Life is Love has been reviewed by Marty Grundy in Friends Journal, by Carole Spencer in Quaker Religious Thought, and by Stuart Masters on A Quaker Stew.
A Guide to Faithfulness Groups explains what faithfulness is and how it can be cultivated by small groups that practice ways to listen inwardly together for divine guidance, a practice that holds great potential for supporting individuals of any faith in allowing the work of the Spirit to become manifest through them and their communities.
Both books are available from Inner Light Books in hardback, paperback, and ebook. (An excerpt and a study guide are also available on that website for Our Life is Love: the Quaker Spiritual Journey.)
To order multiple copies of either book, postage free, contact us.
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